US 20060204109 A1
A method of determining defects in a plurality of images having essentially the same image contents is disclosed. A comparison operation is carried out once three fully comparable images having essentially the same image contents are present in the intermediate memory. The stored individual images are accessed randomly. A paired comparison operation between the three difference images is carried out.
1. A method of detecting defects in a plurality of images having essentially the same image contents, comprising the steps of:
recording a plurality of individual images of a surface of a disk-like object;
storing the individual images in an intermediate memory;
carrying out a comparison operation once three fully comparable images having essentially the same image contents are present in the intermediate memory, wherein the stored individual images are randomly accessed and wherein the recording operation of the individual images is carried out in parallel to the comparison operation; in that
a first difference is formed of the first and second recorded individual images, a second difference is formed of the second and third recorded individual images and a third difference is formed of the third and first recorded individual images, and in that
by means of a comparison between the third difference and the first difference, by means of a comparison between the first difference and the second difference and by means of a comparison between the second difference and the third difference the presence of a defect in the recorded individual images is determined.
2. The method according to
3. The method according to
4. The method according to any one of claims 1, wherein the comparison operation between the three recorded individual images is not limited to the recorded individual images of a single scanning line.
5. The method according to
6. The method according to
This application claims priority to German application serial number DE 10 2005 011 237.4 filed on Mar. 11, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The present invention relates to a method of detecting defects in images wherein a plurality of individual images are recorded which constitute partial images of the surface of a disk-like object.
In semiconductor manufacture, during the manufacturing process, wafers are sequentially processed in a plurality of process steps, wherein a plurality of similar, repetitive structural elements, the so-called dies, are produced on a wafer. As integration densities increase, the requirements as to the quality of the structures formed on the wafer become ever more demanding. To be able to verify the quality of the structures formed and to find defects, if any, the requirements as to the quality, the precision and the reproducibility of the components and process steps for handling the wafer are correspondingly stringent. This means that in the production of a wafer comprising a great number of process steps and with the great number of layers of photoresist or the like to be applied, the reliable and early detection of defects in the individual structures or structural elements is particularly important.
German patent application DE 103 07 358 discloses a method and apparatus for scanning a semiconductor wafer. On-the-fly images of areas on the wafer are taken by a camera. When the scanning line is changed, a continuously curved translation path is created by at least partially superimposing the relative movement between the wafer and the camera in the direction of the scanning line and normal to it. This serves to save time and to increase wafer throughput.
German patent application DE 103 07 373 discloses that depending on the size of the stepper and die (design) the size of the SAW varies greatly. Generally it cannot be expected that a SAW can be recorded with a single camera image. A SAW is therefore subdivided into portions (segments) of equal size. Each logical SAW segment is associated with a SAW index. The images of the individual SAW segments are stored in a memory and can be retrieved from there by making reference to the index.
US Patent Application. US 2004/0047501 discloses a visual inspection device and method. The chips on the wafer are arranged in lines and subdivided into groups. The images of the chips of a group are compared with each other. If a group contains three chips, this means that the first chip is compared with the third chip, the first chip is compared with the second chip, and the second chip is compared with the third chip. In parallel to this, images are continued to be obtained. The analysis of the images is limited to an analysis of the images of one scanning line. Moreover, the detection of defects in the edge area of a wafer is not possible.
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a method enabling defects to be detected as early and as reliably as possible irrespective of their position on the disk-like object.
The selection of the images for comparison, in devices working on the principles of the prior art, is usually determined by the order in which the images to be compared are recorded. Usually the images are obtained in a meandering scanning process, if by means of a line scanning camera with continuous lighting, by means of array cameras or with flash lighting. The simplest form of a selection of the images to be compared is therefore the selection of each next or second next neighbor in the scanning direction. However, this leads to a number of problems when the recorded images are evaluated. When edge sections are to be analyzed, each edge section image does not constitute a fully comparable partner for the images from the inner areas of the wafer. In edge section images, only part of the image area is covered with structured elements. Further, it is also possible that with some wafer designs, individual contact or test surfaces are provided which have a different image content from the rest of the wafer. These areas must be excluded from the comparison process. Images with portions of these exclusion areas are also not fully comparable partners to images from the inner areas of the wafer. It is also particularly disadvantageous if a comparison of the images is limited to a single scanning line. Situations can arise where a whole scanning line only consists of edge section images, or where the number of comparable images is reduced to below three by the presence of exclusion areas. Further, in wafer manufacture, a phenomenon can arise wherein the recorded wafer images are partially incompatible with the principle that areas have to have the same appearance. A different hue of color may be overlapping in the inner areas of the wafer than near the edge. It is desirable to find comparable partners having a basic color hue which is as similar as possible. This can usually be found near the original image, however, not necessarily in the same scanning line. Frequently the criterion of the same distance to the wafer center is better suited as a selection criterion.
According to the present invention this object is achieved by a method of inspecting a wafer comprising the steps of:
recording a plurality of individual images of a surface of a disk-like object;
The selection of the images for comparison, in devices working on the principles The method of determining defects in a plurality of images having essentially the same image content is advantageous in that first a plurality of individual images are recorded from a surface of a disk-like object. These recorded individual images are stored in an intermediate memory. Parallel to this, a comparison operation can be carried out if three fully comparable images having essentially the same image content are present in the intermediate memory, wherein the access to the stored individual images is random and wherein the recording of the individual images is carried out in parallel to the comparison operation. According to the comparison operation, a first difference is formed of the first and the second recorded individual image, a second difference of the second and the third recorded individual image and a third difference of the third and the first recorded individual image. Finally, the differences are compared with each other, and the difference between the individual differences is determined. Thus the presence of a defect in the recorded individual images is detected by means of a comparison between the third difference and the first difference, by means of a comparison between the first difference and the second difference, and by means of a comparison between the second difference and the third difference.
The random access to the recorded individual images also facilitates the analysis of edge section images and of exclusion zones on the disk-like object. For analyzing the individual images of edge section images and exclusion zones, partner images are relied upon which have already been or are still to be analyzed in other groups of three.
The comparison operation between the three recorded individual images is not limited to the recorded individual images of a single scanning line.
To create an alignment of the three recorded individual images, first the present displacement of the three recorded individual images to each other is determined with subpixel accuracy. For each recorded individual image an optimal displacement to be carried out is calculated which would lead to the three recorded individual images to be compared eventually having their image contents take up the same position within their images with subpixel accuracy.
The above and other features of the invention including various novel details of construction and combinations of parts, and other advantages, will now be more particularly described with reference to the accompanying drawings and pointed out in the claims. It will be understood that the particular method and device embodying the invention are shown by way of illustration and not as a limitation of the invention. The principles and features of this invention may be employed in various and numerous embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention.
In the accompanying drawings, reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale; emphasis has instead been placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention. Of the drawings:
Other advantages and advantageous embodiments of the present invention will be described in the following with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
To be able to carry out a great number of image recordings with the camera 3, the scanning table 2 is continuously traversed below camera 3 at constant speed. The desired images of selected areas or of the complete surface of disk-like object 1 are thus recorded in an on-the-fly process. A control unit 4 determines the movement and the speed of the scanning table and also controls the camera. This coordinated control of the scanning table and the camera enables images to be taken of the desired areas of disk-like object 1.
Due to the on-the-fly imaging, depending on the speed of scanning table 2, correspondingly short exposure times are necessary for the individual images, so that smeared images are avoided. Short exposure times mean that disk-like object 1 has to be lighted with very high light intensities. A high lighting density can also be achieved by having a lighting means 3 a focus its light only onto such area of disk-like object 1 that is necessary for the image recording of the camera. The recorded images are evaluated directly after taking the image or corresponding to the presence of a certain number of comparable recorded images by a fast algorithm. It is thus necessary for various images to be intermediately stored, so that the evaluation can also be carried out during the image recording process.
In the combination of the two indices, the first segment obtains the index 1 a. The first camera image comprises the image field segments 1 a, 2 b, 4 c, 5 d. The second camera image comprises the image field segments 3 a, 1 b, 6 c, 4 d etc. Thus the contents of the first and fourth images can be compared with each other, since they match both in the SAW and in the image index. Of course, both the individual image field segments of the first image can be compared with the corresponding image field segments of the fourth image, and groups of image field segments of the first image can be compared with those of the second image with the respective associations remaining identical.
When comparing the image field segments, it should be noted, however, that images having the same image contents must always be compared. Herein, “the same contents” means that the same structural elements are present in the individual images. A displacement of the SAWs with respect to each other, as it is used for an optimal utilization of the wafer surface, should be treated with the same approach. With the method according to the present invention, edge areas of wafers can be tested in the same way. A comparison operation is only carried out after the system has recorded three images with the same image contents. This means that in the present case about three images having the same image contents are recorded from the edge areas and they remain stored in the intermediate memory until a comparison operation can be carried out.
The comparison of the recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 is carried out in a process utilizing groups of three at any one time. This technique, using groups of three, also minimizes the alignment problems described below. By randomly accessing the recorded individual images it is also possible to analyze edge section images and also to take border zones on disk-like object 1 into account. Partner images can be relied upon to analyze these kinds of images, which have already been analyzed, or are still to be analyzed, in other groups of three. Moreover, the comparisons are not limited to a single scanning line. Also, after the comparison, false majority decisions are looked for and, when found, the images in question are regrouped in new groups of three and analyzed again. According to the method of the present invention a first difference 30 is formed of a first image 20 and a second image 21, further a second difference 31 is formed of a second image 21 and a third image 22, and a third difference 32 is formed of a third image 22 and first image 20. Since the individual images 20, 21 and 22 have matching image contents, what remains in difference images 30, 31 and 32 is only the distinctive features. In order to obtain an unequivocal allocation of the defects to their original images, a comparison operation must be carried out between difference images 30, 31 and 32. This comparison operation serves to compare the image contents of the third difference image 32 with the image contents of the first difference image 30. The result is a first comparison image 41 which actually reflects defect 23 included in the first individual image 20. In a second comparison operation, the first difference image 30 is compared with the second difference image 31 so that, as a result, a second comparison image 40 is obtained comprising the defect included in the second recorded individual image 21. In a third comparison operation, the second difference image 31 is compared to the third difference image 32 so that, as a result, a third comparison image 42 is obtained which does not comprise any defect. In the third recorded individual image 22, no defect is included, either. The first comparison image 41, the second comparison image 40 and the third comparison image 42 thus provide a defined judgment as to the presence of defects in the recorded individual images 20 to 22.
Before the three recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 are compared with each other, they must be displaced with respect to each other with subpixel accuracy. First the present displacement of the three recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 with respect to each other is measured with subpixel accuracy. From these data, an optimal displacement to be carried out for each of the recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 is calculated which results in the three contents of the recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 taking up the same position within their images with subpixel accuracy. The optimization is carried out separately for the x and y directions and consists in minimizing the amount of subpixel percentage of each displacement. The undesirable corruption of the images by subpixel displacement can thus be limited. It can be achieved that the subpixel percentage is no bigger than a third of a pixel in any direction in any of the displacements.
This method is not optimal, however, since it involves the three recorded individual images 20, 21 and 22 being displaced to differing degrees and therefore in soft focus to different extents. For this reason there is an additional, precisely measured, explicit soft-focussing which is carried out for each of the images, and in the x and y directions, to a different degree in order to extend the effect of soft-focussing in each case to a standard amount. The standard amount for the soft-focus effect in the x and y directions corresponds to the effect of the maximum possible subpixel displacement described in the present method, which is a third of a pixel. This also serves to solve the problem that different pairs of images have a differing degree of soft focus after their alignment with respect to each other. After the complete alignment, the soft focus corresponds to the same standard amount in all of the images of all groups of three of the recorded individual images 20, 21 & 22. Since the subpixel displacement is a convolution with a 2×1 or 2×2 convolution kernel (one direction and both directions simultaneously, respectively) and the explicit soft-focussing is a convolution with a 3×1 or 3×3 convolution kernel, respectively, for performance enhancement, it is a good idea to combine the two and to carry them out simultaneously in a good approximation by using a single 3×1 or 3×3 convolution.
After the alignment consisting of displacement and soft-focussing, all three differences can be created at once without further displacement. As can be seen from the diagram in
The overlapping area of the first photoresist defect 26 in the first individual image 20 and the second photoresist defect 27 in the second individual image 21 is detected as a match in both the first 41 and the second comparison image 40 in the same way, which thus excludes its detection as a defect.
On the other hand, the differences in shape between photoresist defect 26 and photoresist defect 27 are correctly indicated as defects in comparison images 40 and 41.
In comparison image 42 the overlapping area of the first photoresist defect 26 in the first individual image 20 and of the second photoresist defect 27 in the second individual image 21 appears as a smudge 45 indicating a defective region. In this case photoresist defects 26 and 27 in the first recorded individual image 20 and in the second recorded individual image 21 overruled, so to speak, the in fact defect-free individual image 22, resulting in a false majority decision.
It is possible, however, that no other suitable comparison partner can be found or that the same problematic situation arises with other comparison partners. It is therefore necessary to limit the number of further attempts to find a partner and if necessary to accept the unsatisfactory result of an unreliable defect allocation.
It is quite obvious that the problematic defective regions are characterized in that when they are superimposed they form a continuous overall area. Of course this only applies if the actual defect regions differ in form. However, precisely matching defects at exactly the same corresponding location in two images of different places on the wafer are a negligibly rare result, which is therefore not considered in any more detail.
While this invention has been particularly shown and described with references to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention encompassed by the appended claims.